Thursday, July 28, 2005

Don't get squeezed by big cable

If you're fed up with constant cable rate hikes, poor service and a lack of local and independent programming, the FCC needs to hear from you -- right now.

The FCC may allow the three largest cable companies to control up to 90 percent of the cable TV and broadband market in the United States.

Remember that in most markets, cable companies operate as monopolies. The only way to get them to respond to your concerns is to voice your opinion and apply pressure on local, state, and federal officials.

Free Press has a form you can use to send the following comment directly to the FCC (the deadline for comment is August 8):

Giant cable companies should not be permitted to grow larger. Further consolidation in the cable industry is a clear violation of horizontal ownership rules that must be re-established to serve the public interest.

The concentration of power and control over distribution of media is a growing problem in this country. Though we have more channels available than ever before, they are under the operation of a handful of giant corporations.

If Comcast and Time Warner are allowed to merge with Adelphia, the two companies will control nearly 50 percent of the national market. This level of concentration in the cable industry will lead to higher consumer rates and lower quality service.

Since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the “deregulation” of cable, consumers have seen their rates jump an average of 59 percent — with some areas experiencing even more dramatic increases.

We are required to buy channels we don’t want or need because the cable operators bundle them together. The quality of customer service often reflects the fact that cable television is not a competitive market.

Meanwhile, the cost of cable modem service remains out of reach for many households, holding constant for years and selectively underserving rural and low-income Americans. The American people are watching the digital divide widen even as the need for access to high-speed networks increases.

Cable companies have become less responsive to the needs and requirements of communities. The quality of public accountability in local franchise agreements has declined, as big companies leverage their power to squeeze local governments.

In many communities, the truly independent sources of local news, information and culture come from the public channels produced at the local access centers. Unfortunately, local channels lack the resources to produce the programming that citizens want and need.

The last thing we need is to reward the anti-competive actions of cable giants by permitting greater consolidation in ownership, reducing competition, and encouraging more of the same.


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